Massimo Fusillo

4E Transcoding Opera and Musical Theatre
Session 4 – July 2, 15:30 – 17:30

Sublime Voices, Tragic Identifications. On Two Opera’s Re-enactments in cinema

After a theoretical introduction on operatic transcodification, the paper deals first with two famous representations of a topical scene, a character who attends opera for the first time (Flaubert’s Madame Bovary; Gerry Mulligan’s Pretty Woman), which highlight emotional involvement and empathy as key components. This is idea background to analyze a very specific kind of cinematic transcodification of opera, which I call «tragic re-enactment»: a character re-lives and performs, in an extremely personal way, an opera scene which we hear in the soundtrack. In the two case studies (Jonathan Demme’s Philadelphia and David Cronenberg’s M. Butterfly), a male character strongly identifies with a female role and voice, bringing together issues of gender, aesthetic response, and empathic strategies. The opera scene in Philadelphia is a splendid microcosm which enlightens the entire movie, but remains isolated as an autonomous episode. On the contrary, David Cronenberg’s M. Butterfly (1993) can be defined as a movie on opera transcodification, especially if we truly exploit the multilayered nature of this term, which involves expressive, cultural, and political levels.